Former state senator Catherine E. Pugh (D-Baltimore) took the helm of Maryland’s largest city on Tuesday, vowing to work with Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to bring federal aid to Baltimore to create jobs and improve its infrastructure.
Pugh was sworn in as the city’s 50th mayor inside the ornate War Memorial Building, just steps away from her new City Hall offices. She said during her inaugural address that she has already drafted a letter for President-elect Donald Trump (R) and would like Hogan to accompany her to Washington to deliver it.
“When [Trump] talks about infrastructure in an urban environment, I say, ‘That’s our city’,” Pugh said. “When he talks about creating jobs and opportunity, I say, ‘That’s our city’.”
Turning to Hogan, she added: “I look forward to our partnership. We had one when I was in Annapolis, and I look forward to our continuing relationship.”
The popular first-term governor had a strained relationship with Pugh’s predecessor, former mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D). In his own remarks, he praised Pugh as a “fierce advocate” who will “work tirelessly to address the problems” facing the city.
Pugh, 66, grew up in Pennsylvania but came to Baltimore in the 1970s to attend Morgan State University. She was elected to the City Council in 1999 and served in the state legislature starting in 2005, rising to become Senate majority leader.
Among the Democratic officeholders attending her inauguration were Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin; Senator-elect Chris Van Hollen, who is taking Mikulski’s seat; Rep. Elijah E. Cummings; state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (Calvert); and five former mayors, including Rawlings-Blake, former presidential candidate and governor Martin O’Malley and Pugh’s challenger, Sheila Dixon, who initiated a write-in campaign during the general election following a bitter primary.
Miller called Hogan’s presence a sign of bipartisanship and “moving forward together . . . That’s what Catherine has always been about.”
Also on the stage were Baltimore County Executive Kevin B. Kamenetz (D) and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), each of whom are considering challenging Hogan’s bid for a second term in 2018 and would need strong support from heavily Democratic Baltimore to win.
Pugh, who thanked her father for instilling in her a belief that she could be anything if she worked hard for it, will face numerous challenges as mayor, such as widespread crime and blight in some neighborhoods, high unemployment, struggling schools and allegations of police misconduct.
She took the oath of office with her two brothers by her side, thanking the crowd of residents from across the city for the opportunity to become a “servant-leader.”
Pugh repeated a commitment she made during her campaign to help all neighborhoods, and to close the gap between the city’s downtown and other sections of the city that have not experienced the same revitalization.
“Every neighborhood deserves to be the greatest,” she said.